Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Sparrowhawk!...'Red in Tooth and Claw'

First of all I should mention the slight change of name. When I started this blog three years ago and named it ShySongbird's Twitterings I had never heard of the social network site 'Twitter' and have never used it myself but since Twitter has become so popular I have been concerned about the possible implied connection. It has also troubled me that with the exception of 'Songbird' there is nothing in the title to indicate what my blog is actually about. Therefore, after much deliberation I have come up with what I feel is a more appropriate title...I hope you think so too. It would be great if those of you who have so kindly added me to your sidebars could find a moment to change the name. I know it's a nuisance but if you could just go into your 'My Blog List' you will see there is a rename button which you can click and then amend the name remembering to save the changes. There is no need to delete and reinstall.



After my last post, showing the Fox carrying its supper, this post has, I'm afraid, even more gory photos! There was a time when I wouldn't have taken the photographs let alone put them on my blog but it has to be acknowledged that Nature is indeed 'red in tooth and claw'. How else would that Fox feed itself and it's family?  How would our beloved garden birds feed their chicks if they didn't catch grubs, insects, caterpillars etc? And the distinction must be drawn between a creature which acts on instinct and purely from a sense of survival, and man's inhumanity to man and his fellow creatures, for no reason other than ignorance or pure evil. It is of course extremely distressing to witness one creature killing another and when it happens in one's own garden, it is particularly so. So it was with the Sparrowhawk which caught and consumed a Blackbird in my garden recently. I'm glad I wasn't in the back of the house as my husband was when he was alerted to the noise in the garden. By the time he reached the window the poor creature had already lost the battle. I didn't look out for about forty minutes by which time the hawk had almost finished its meal. I was surprised to see it was right outside the French door, just five or six feet away from me. Considering it was dull, pouring with rain and the (not very clean) glass was covered with raindrops I was surprised that the photos came out as well as they did. Please excuse the long grass, there hadn't been a chance to cut it due to all the heavy downpours!


'Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek'd against his creed.'
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

'Nature is no sentimentalist.'
(Ralph Waldo Emmerson)

'[Nature] is all things. 
She rewards herself and punishes herself;
 and in herself rejoices and is distressed. 
She is rough and gentle, loving and terrible,
 powerless and almighty. 
In her everything is always present.
 Past or Future she knows not. 
The Present is her Eternity.'
(Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

'A man who lives with nature is used to violence and is companionable with death. 
There is more violence in an English hedgerow than in the meanest streets of a great city.'
(P.D. James)

'Nature does nothing without purpose or uselessly.'

'I am the hawk and there's blood on my feathers,
 but time is still turning they soon will be dry;
 All those who see me, and all who believe in me, 
share in the freedom I feel when I fly.'
(John Denver)

'Let us permit nature to have her way. 
 She understands her business better than we do.'
( Michel de Montaigne)

Uncomfortable viewing I know but nevertheless part of Nature. I hope no one is offended.

My next post will be easier on the eye. Until then...enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. these are great photos! i'd much rather see an animal or bird kill for food than watch my dogs kill because they can.

  2. What a great opportunity to take such clear close-up photos of a Sparrowhawk, albeit at the Blackbird's expense. Your selected quotes express so well this side of Nature's life cycle. Birds of prey are fascinating to watch ... reminded me of the Bald Eagles here who snatch salmon out of the watery depths.

  3. A regular sight in my garden Songbird, and it always seems to be on a wet day.

    PS; Long grass is good grass :-)

    I'll sort the blog page out now!

  4. OOooo Jan I am Green green green, what a cracking opportunity under such tragic circumstances. The captures are just superb,I have been dreaming of catching a Sparrowhawk this close for years, but it always eludes me.
    So very very well done.
    Yep the new title is just fine although twittering s has a lovely ring to it.

  5. ShySongbird ,
    As you say , all part of nature , and they themselves had a hard time not that long ago .
    As regards the name , Nature News or Twitterings , it doesn't matter , as long as it is penned by your good self .
    Thanks again for your beetle ID and if you are still trying for the other one , I've solved it and will put it on my next post .

  6. Hi Jan,

    Nature is cruel indeed. I have seen a Sparrowhawk take many birds this year from the garden, mainly bluetits.

    Wonderful captures though, I have never managed to be able to get any images. As soon as they know I am around they take flight. I try not to intervene, as I would hate the bird to die for nothing.......better the sparrowhawk has it's meal.

  7. A wonderful capture of this magnificent bird.The Sparrowhalks
    survival depends on smaller prey
    such as this unfortunate Blackbird.
    It is just natures way,as your sellected quotes express so well.I am also used to seeing the Black Kite carry off it's prey,- but unlike you, I have been unsuccessful in capturing such moments!! Well done!

  8. TexWisGirl

    Thank you Theresa. I completely agree with you although personally I think cats are worse culprits than dogs.


    Thank you Glo. I have seen it before in the garden but never so closely. The Sparrowhawk is a magnificent looking bird as of course are Bald Eagles...not that I've ever been privileged to see one of those.

    Warren Baker

    Thank you Warren. It's a bit too regular in mine too but not usually so close to the house! Thanks very much for amending the name :-)


    Thank you for your lovely and generous comments Monty :-) it was horrible to think of the poor Blackbird's plight but a stunning scene to witness so closely!
    I am sorry in some ways to see the old title go but think this one is probably more appropriate.

  9. It's true, this beautiful creature has to survive and needs to eat. We can't really judge can we those of us who are non-vegetarian? Most of us go and get those neat little pre-packaged meats at the supermarket, while others have to work a little harder for their meals, be it the sparrow or the hawk. It's nature's way. Your photos are brilliant and tell the age old tale of survival. I have changed your blog's name by the way.

  10. These are great photos Jan of a spectacle of nature. Nature is indeed `red in tooth and claw` and we must not lose sight of the fact that, as you say, this bird is killing to survive, not for fun. I read an article recently on how the RSPCA are inundated with people bringing in Blackbirds, doves etc that they have `rescued` from a Sparrowhawk! Do these people realise that the Sparrowhawk needs to eat? Do they run out into the garden and stop the Blackbird from eating an earthworm? I think not.
    It is not a pleasant sight to see birds caught and killed by other birds, but I would rather see this than a so-called hunter blasting dozens of grouse out of the sky to satisfy their blood lust!
    Follow me at HEDGELAND TALES

  11. Hello Jan...despite the rain you got some amazing photos. And I love the quotes you've included here.

    Thank you for your visits and comments on my blog...always a joy to have you visit. Looking forward to your next post.:)

  12. Haven't seen them yet this year, beautiful photos, my fave is number 3, superb.

  13. Amazing photos, what a beauty that Sparrowhawk is! I missed your last post, will go back and check it out now :)

  14. Brilliant photos of the sparrowhawk, and it was only having its dinner, after all.
    I have a magpie in my garden who I am sure destroyed a long-tailed tit's nest a couple of years ago. At the time I was horrified, but now when I see it in the garden, I can't help but notice how beautiful it is.
    They are only doing what comes natural to them to survive. It's just hard to see it that way sometimes.

  15. I think it has all been said. Thats nature. Excellent pics.

  16. Good shooting Jan, awful grass.{:)

    Yes its nature's way, but the Sparrowhawk doesn't exactly strike and immediate killer blow unfortunately, especially with the larger prey it tackles.

  17. Heck no!!! Bring on the blood!!! I love them. I love the sparrowhawks you have in your area. I'd love to see one out in the wild. There is nothing offensive at all about this post. Most birders will agree.....we love this kind of stuff.

  18. Wonderful photos Jan. I do get upset when a Sparrowhawk takes a bird in our garden but as you say its nature's way and it does it to survive. Most of the times I've actually seen sprawks hunting they fail to catch anything!

    I like your new name and I will change it on my blog list.

  19. Greenie

    Thank you Greenie. You make a good point, sadly of course, raptors in general have always suffered persecution at the hands of the ignorant.
    I can't wait to find out the identity of the remaining bug, I was sure I had seen it somewhere but after trawling through hundreds and hundreds had to admit defeat.
    Had I been a little 'sharper' about writing my comment more quickly I would have beaten a certain rat packer/carpenter to it ;-)


    Thank you Cheryl. I agree it is upsetting, I am usually only aware of their presence in the garden when I find the feathers of their victims and was surprised to see it so close to the house. You make an absolutely excellent point about not intervening, as my last quote said Nature 'understands her business better than we do'!


    Thank you very much for your kind comments :-) How wonderful to see Black Kites, I have seen Red Kites and they are magnificent!


    Thank you Denise. You are completely correct! The only difference between the hawk and those of us who are meat eaters is that we expect someone else to do the killing and butchery for us!
    Thank you so much for changing the blog name :-)

  20. Without being sentimental you had a perfect opportunity to observe a stunning bird do what it needs to do to survive. That was, I believe, a privilege; thank you for posting the images.

  21. John

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful and well considered comments John. I completely agree with you about intervening and a lot of those people probably own cats which kill for no particular reason at all! I also totally agree with your comments regarding shooting, as you imply 'hunting' isn't even an accurate term when people are simply taking pot shots at flushed birds that don't stand a chance of avoiding their assassins!

    Nature Rambles

    Thank you Kanak. I was really surprised the photos came out as well as they did and that the rain didn't show as it was all over the window! Also in my eagerness I had managed to steam up the viewfinder so could barely see what I was photographing...perhaps not a bad thing under the circumstances ;-)


    Thank you very much Bob :-) I'm sure you'll see one sooner or later.


    Thank you Marianne, it's always a pleasure to see you here :-)

  22. Crystal

    Thank you Crystal. I'm so envious at the thought of having an LTT nest in the garden, I think I remember you mentioning that once but please forgive me if it was someone else. As you say the Magpie was just following its survival instincts and yes they are beautiful birds, very flighty in my experience though.

    Mike Atwood

    Thank you very much Mike :-)


    Thank you Roy. It looked even more awful :-) when the fallen Lilac which the wind brought down was laid across it!
    Yes I have read it can be a prolonged death for some of the larger victims. Poor things, it is difficult to think about!


    Thank you for your robust and positive comments Chris :-)

  23. Firstly I like the new blog name Jan.
    Secondly, your Sparrowhawk pics are so good that I dreamt about a Sparrowhawk taking a Blackbird in my own garden last night!!

  24. Ragged Robin

    Thank you Caroline. It is upsetting to see and I am always rather happy when a potential victim escapes unscathed :-)
    I'm glad you like the new title, to be honest it would have been Nature Notes if that title hadn't already been taken ;-)


    Thank you very much Toffeeapple. You summed it up beautifully :-)


    Hi Phil, thank you :-) Oh dear, sorry about that! But at least you considered it a dream and not a nightmare and it could have been worse, the victim could have been that Nightingale!! ;-)

  25. There is a male Sparrowhawk here, who has been haunting my garden and my neighbour's for several months, he regularily takes Blue Tits. Unfortunately the other birds have been spooked by this Sparrowhawk that I don't get many birds at my feeders now, and one of my neighbours said the same. I am now having to consider stop feeding the birds for a while because it seems all I am doing is creating a trap for the small birds in which the Sparrowhawk can come and ambush them.

  26. Great shots Jan, they did come out well from behind the glass, gory or not, it's all part of nature and not something that many witness. Thanks for the advice on the pictures by the way :-)

  27. I know all the birds have to eat even your Sparrowhawk. I do have to admit, I am kind of happy it was a blackbird and not a cute songbird. Great shots, I am not offended.

  28. Hi Jan,

    You got some amazing shots and this is NATURE!!
    Was so used to the name Shysong birds twittering but the new name is good as well:)

    So long have a great weekend!


  29. °♪¸.♫♫♪

    Passei para uma visitinha.
    Fiquei impressionada com a primeira fotografia, a textura e os detalhes das penas... excelente trabalho.
    Todas as fotos estão ótimas.

    Bom fim de semana!

  30. I am not one to be offend by any event in the natural world! :)
    I have myself publish photos of a Harris hawk catching a Magpie and taken shots of a Grey Heron and birds of prey tearing a young wild boar a part.
    Those who might be offended have no business judging nature and are far off the reality of life.
    Nature is not kind or angry it has no emotions!
    They are the ones to bring feelings in and in doing so they can't analyse realistically what they see!
    Stop!! LOL!
    I could go on for a while on this subject since I had a violent comment on these pictures of mine and got quite angry:

    And here for the Grey Heron:

    The winter was so harsh that this carcass found by a friend was welcomed by the Kites wintering here too.
    I think your photos are great and nature AS IT IS!
    Perfect for me! :)
    Sorry for this long comment, have a great sunday!

  31. It is so hard to accept the hard realities of nature, but you are so right. It is much different than the inhumane actions of man. I think it is so much worse, because as humans we are supposed to have a conscience.

    Hope you are well!


  32. Linda Yarrow

    Hi Linda, I do understand that it can feel like we have somehow lured the birds to their deaths by providing the food but I have often read that a garden with a Sparrowhawk is a healthy, well balanced garden and of course if it didn't happen in our gardens it would happen elsewhere. I have also noticed that the Sprawk tends to take diseased birds which is why I call it Dr Sprawk. Nature's very own form of euthanasia perhaps!

    Alan Pavey

    Thanks Alan, I really was surprised how clear the photos came out under the circumstances. Hope you get the photo situation sorted out soon.


    Thank you Eileen, actually our British Blackbird has one of the most beautiful songs of all our birds so it really was very sad to see it fall victim to the Sparrowhawk :-(


    Thank you Shantana :-) I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Yes, it may be unpalatable but it is all part of Nature. Sorry about the slight name change, I had been thinking about it for a long time, I hope you get used to it eventually, it will take me a while :-)

  33. Magia da Ines

    Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comments. I hope you visit again and that you are having a lovely weekend.
    Bem-vindo! Muito obrigado pela visita e pelos comentários gentis. Eu espero que você visitar novamente e que você está tendo um belo fim de semana.


    Thank you for your supportive and considered comments Noushka. You are quite right, Nature is what it is and we have no right to put our human emotions onto it. Creatures kill and eat to survive, that is how it is and how it has to be. I am very sorry you had a violent comment about your photos as you too were only recording the realities of Nature, such comments are born of ignorance of course.

    Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Dear Jenny, Thank you and lovely to see you here again. You hit the nail on the head. We are the ones who are supposed to have a conscience and to be capable of compassionate thought yet we are the ones who inflict so much senseless cruelty on each other and on the creatures we share this planet with.

  34. Hi Jan, firstly thank you so much for your kind comments on my blog at this time - so very much appreciated! I loved looking at these images (even the gory ones) birds of prey (and I'm including Owls too) are my favourite group of birds. They seem so cleverly adapted to make the most of their surroundings. By the way, I have changed the name of your blog on my favourites as requested. Take care, Jerry.

  35. A great close encounter, which you took advantage of with some cracking pictures. Not much fun for the victim, though!

  36. Dear Jan,
    Nature is amazing. I would rather see a Hawk kill than road kill! We all are killers in some way. I eat carrots! Once the roots are pulled it is all over for that plant! I do understand how upsetting blood kill can be. I usually look away and gather the too many feathers later. I am always happy though when I see a Dragonfly eat a mosquito. I watch with gratitude.
    I love your new blog title!
    Hope the rains stop soon. I love long wild grass...makes me think of baskets....mine is burning up.

  37. My goodness, what beautiful shots! Yes, it's hard to watch the cruelty of nature, but this is the way of the world.
    Have a good week.

  38. Zdjęcia są wspaniałe, mimo iż trochę na nich krwi. Natura jest piękna i okrutna jednocześnie. Jastrząb nie zabij dla przyjemności, ale musi jeść, aby żyć. Trudno, musimy się z tym pogodzić. Pozdrawiam ( u mnie jest już nowa nazwa Twojego bloga).
    The pictures are wonderful, although a little blood on them. Nature is beautiful and cruel at the same time. The hawk does not kill for pleasure, but must eat to live. It is difficult, we have to deal with it. Yours (mine is the new name of your blog).

  39. Jerry

    Thank you Jerry. So sorry for the late reply! It really was so very sad to read your post.
    Yes, birds of prey are magnificent creatures and sadly still subjected to persecution by ignorant and self serving people and now, incredibly, by Defra if their current, abhorrent plans go through!
    Thanks so much for changing the blog name :-)


    Thank you Jeremy and sorry for the late reply! No, not at all nice for that poor Blackbird, I did feel very sorry for it and also wondered if it left behind a mate and nestlings too...poor things :-(


    Thank you Sherry :-) Sorry to be so late with my reply! You are quite correct, at least a hawk kill is natural and useful, road kill is just a sad waste.
    Happily, we have had beautiful sunshine and very warm temperatures this week...at last! So glad you like the new name :-) Have a lovely weekend Sherry!


    Thank you Wendy. It is indeed.
    I hope you are well and still enjoying 'digging in the dirt' :-) and that you have a lovely weekend. Sorry for the late reply!


    Welcome! Thank you very much for visiting and for your kind comment. I shall endeavour to visit your blog soon :-)

  40. Wow what a beautiful sequence, a bit ogry as you said but fantastic nature sequence! Well done!

  41. Jan, this post reminded me of what drew me to your blog in the first place--the perfect choices of poetry to accompany all your great photos. Though we all like to dwell on the beauty and serenity of nature, the truth is she is "loving and terrible" at the same time as you have shown here.

    By the way, one of my traveling companions to the Asheville Fling was an avid birder. I learned a lot more than plant names on this trip!

    Funny that your blog name has now become such a common word; I'll definitely change this on my sidebar, because I don't tweet:)

  42. Nature both the beauty and reality is always a wonder. Lovely photos today.

  43. So sorry for these late replies, I thought I had already done them!!


    Thank you Giga. I completely agree with you, the hawk is doing what it has to do to survive, that is the way of the world and we must accept it.
    Dziękuję Giga. Całkowicie zgadzam się z tobą, hawk robi to, co ma zrobić, aby przetrwać, to jest droga na świecie i musimy ją zaakceptować.


    Thank you Chris. Yes, not easy viewing but still a privilege to witness.


    Thank you, you are very kind :-) How interesting to spend time with a knowledgeable birder. All in all your trip sounded great fun.
    Thank you so much for changing the name on your sidebar :-)

    the cuby poet

    Thank you cuby poet, a wonder indeed.


Please feel free to leave a friendly comment and thank you for taking the time to visit, it's much appreciated and I try to answer each one although it may sometimes take me a few days to do so.

PLEASE NOTE: Any comments which include unrelated links will be deleted!